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January 11, 2007

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Well said!

And yet, you supported him for President right up until and soon after the 2004 election, so you were okay with his "stragedy" continuing till 2008 as recently as two years ago.

And?

You're not interested in outlining the point at which you realized that ever supporting Bush was a terrible mistake, and your opponents in argument were right all along?

Most right-wing bloggers are never going to do that: of course, most right-wing bloggers are apparently not even willing now to admit that their past support of Bush was a terrible mistake.

Pro-war pundits, amateur and professional, have in general been extremely reluctant to admit their persistent wrongness - even when they change their minds. When a person pursues a course of action so wrong-headed for years on end, and then suddenly realizes "hey, I was wrong, and all those people who told me I was wrong were right" you'd at least expect a sheepish acknowledgement, if not a handsome avowal.

This is the most compelling thing I have seen about Bush's plan thus far.

Already, a U.S. Army infantry battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks in order to deploy to Iraq.

According to Army Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata and other senior U.S. commanders here, that will happen just as the Taliban is expected to unleash a major campaign to cut the vital road between Kabul and Kandahar. The official said the Taliban intend to seize Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city and the place where the group was organized in the 1990s.

"We anticipate significant events there next spring," said Tata.

Just to try and salvage George Bush's reputation. Unbelievable.

Unbelievable.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Stay the Course + 21,500.

Hard to believe it took him six weeks to come up with this. I guess since he had to take the stage after the ISG, that was the minimum interval.

Love this Howard Fineman line (from TPM):

George W. Bush spoke with all the confidence of a perp in a police lineup.

Jesurgislac, is there some purpose to be served by Sebastian prostrating himself aside from providing personal satisfaction to you? I mean, I'm perfectly happy to mock his wrongness as well, but I don't expect him to dance like a monkey for me.

Phil, much the same purpose there is in Sebastian declaring that he's finally noticed (a year or two into Bush's second term) that Bush, whom he supported through two elections, was actually the wrong person to be President: which is to say, none at all.

Hard to believe it took him six weeks to come up with this

there isn't. but it does suck some of the oxygen away from the Dem's takeover of Congress. i hope nobody thinks it's a coincidence that Bush waited until the Dems officially started their 100 hours to deliver His Hugely Hyped Speech.

Actually, cleek, I think you have it backwards. The Dems started Congress early this year because they didn't want Bush to have the stage unoccupied. He probably would have loved nothing better than to roll this out at the SOTU, but things had to be accelerated due to the Dem pressure.

didn't the Dems decide to start when they did long before Bush decided to roll out his Brand New Same ?

and didn't Bush delay the announcement, at least once, before Christmas ?

... forgot to finish...

whatever the Dems timing, it looks a lot like Bush arranged his own schedule to coincide exactly with the Dems '100 hours' start. he could've announced Stay The Course Redux any ol' time.

Given that pulling out is not an option as long as GW is President, an interesting question would be: what would be a strategy? What's the out of the box idea that would actually make it possible to "win" this thing? (Victory, of course, being defined as GW wants it to be.)

didn't the Dems decide to start when they did long before Bush decided to roll out his Brand New Same ?

Yes, I didn't claim otherwise.

My point was that there's a political fight to claim the pulpit, and that the Dems (to their credit) were the ones to fire the first shot. But just as the Dems didn't stand by and let Bush open the New Year without interference, Bush isn't obligated to stand by and let the Dems own the news cycle either.

Sebastian,

Well said. It sounds like that is the reaction of many.

So, what's next? Carl Levin on NPR this morning was saying that they wanted a non-binding resolution to get a sense of the depth of opposition to the escalation. Does anyone think that getting 2/3 to 3/4 of Congress (meaning substantially all Democrats and about half the Repulbicans, about the best that can be hoped for now) on record as opposing the escalation will change any minds at the White House?

What's the out of the box idea that would actually make it possible to "win" this thing?

The fundamental problem is that the most potent force in Iraq is al-Sadr and his militias/death squads. Not only do they perpetrate sectarian violence, but they also represent the scary side of Islam. But the Maliki government is wedded to Sadr both by ideology and fear and is never going to do anything about him, no matter how many nice sounds Maliki makes about rooting out violence from all sides.

What can we do to "solve" this problem? For starters, we'd have to change the regime yet again. This strategy worked well in 1965 and it should work well today. Then we'd basically have to send in enough troops to turn Sadr City into another Fallujah. Then... well, gosh, I'm not sure I can even go on from here, I'm so overcome by the feasibility of the plan so far.

The fact is that there are no good solutions. The most practical route is to reject your initial assumption, and realize that the continuation of the war is not inevitable just because The Decider says so. A steadfast majority has ways of making its voice heard.

But just as the Dems didn't stand by and let Bush open the New Year without interference, Bush isn't obligated to stand by and let the Dems own the news cycle either.

Yes, I didn't claim otherwise.

i'm just saying it didn't take him six weeks to come up with this - how could it? he just delayed telling us about this new batch of same for political reasons. that he pretended to work on it for six weeks just so he could make his big speech at a politically-opportune time makes him seem even more pathetic than he did six weeks ago.

Yeah, there seemed to be this sense that the White House honestly believed people would be impressed by seeing Bush go into "listening mode," give the appearance that he was really, really thinking hard about what to do, etc. No one is buying it at this point, however. Even the people who full-throatedly support the war at this point are doing it independent of any belief in Bush's long-lost credibility.

I think, frankly, he was just buying time, trying to get that much closer to the finish line where it becomes some other President's problem. I don't think it was a particular goal to trample on the Democrats' agenda; I think he would have spent another month in "listening mode" if he felt he could get away with it. It's just that with the Dems making so much noise about the war, convening hearings and such, he had to try to grab a little of the momentum back.

I think, frankly, he was just buying time, trying to get that much closer to the finish line where it becomes some other President's problem.

Yep, "surge" buys him at least six more months. Any complaining from the dems will be met with "you haven't even given the new strategy a chance to work."

And we're itching for a war with Iran.

One more vote that what he's really doing is running out the clock. Politically, I think the Democratic presidential candidates have to make that explicit -- come out for withdrawal, and withdrawal on the basis that it should have happened now or earlier, and the only reason we're going to have to do it in 2009 is that Bush was too craven to face reality now. It's Bush's war, and Bush's failure -- we'll just be stopping the bleeding.

The "listening tour" gave time for people to toss away their "Iraq Study Group" copies of Time and Newsweek.

And I think they really thought that people would buy the image that "Bush is really listening" -- most of our countryfolk have finally realized that's not the case (because much of the media have begun to work that meme in to their reporting).

I hear what Sebastian is saying, and I don't see why he needs to be taunted about it. He wants something resembling victory but realizes that isn't possible under current circumstances *with the current administration*. We all hit that point, some of us earlier.

The only way this thing ends well at all (and it won't) would be a military buildup in concert with serious diplomatic overtures to Syria and Iran. A full area conference. I'd support troops to help secure the area while we were in serious regional negotiations.

But we won't be because Bush doesn't understand why talking is useful let alone necessary. He wouldn't be able to do it with a straight face. And I don't want to sit around until 2009 hoping the next guy can fix it. Though I may have to.

This isn't a surge, or an escalation (pretty puny escalation)......it's a punt.

My biggest fear is that with nothing left to lose, we will have an "accidental" confrontation with Iran.

I hope we live to see 2009......

If I'm trying to use a 3-foot stepladder to reach the top of my 3-story house, is putting a phonebook on top of it a new strategy?

I'm curious. Why would we not live until 2009? While a war with Iran would be unpleasant, unless Iran is a lot closer to WMDs than anyone believes, the odds are that a war with Iran would have little more effect on the average American than the war in Iraq. Even assuming Iran unleashed suicide bombers in the U.S., I'm unconvinced that would result in the level of deaths that would justify concern over surviving to see 2009.

I thought the same thing. The closest I could get is that since China gets much of their oil and natural gas from Iran they may at some point bring it under their nuclear umbrella, and we of course can't count on Bush to play his end of that game rationally.

On NPR yestrday there was an interview with a person who was a former advisor to Gen Abiziad ( I know I didn't spell that right), and a curent professor of military strategy and Middle Eastern affairs at a military college. Ie. he had geat credientials but I don't remember his name .Anyhoo the interviewer asked him if the surge would work and he wasn't optimistic. The interviewer asked him what he worried about at two in the morning and he said all out civil war. Lastly the interviewer asked him if he had read or heard a plan for resolving matters in Iraq that seemed sensible and likely to lead to success. He said no.
That, to me , is the most depressing thing. Immediately following Bush's speach, Thune said tht the Democrats had no idea what to do, no counter plans to present.
What to if even qualified people with no political ax to grind don't know what to do? I wish the Democrats would start making a massage about how we are going to plan for a withdrawal that includes helping those who need to leave to escape. We really need to look at the consequences of withdrawal and see what we can do to prevent ethnic cleansing and that needs to be part of the package
Also the Democrats need to be promoting the withdrawal within the context that Bush already lost the war..

I managed to edit out some words I meant to keep. You all can brush up on your context clues skills!

US Troops Invade Iranian Consulate in Irbil

Kurdistan; Kurd troops in short standoff with US troops;one Kurd represtantive has called it an "act of war by the US against Kurdistan";Iran calls in Iraqi and Swiss

US Troops Invade Iranian Consulate in Irbil

gulp.

let's just hope the people there were so obviously guilty of assisting the insurgents that Iran doesn't want to defend them much at all...

"When a person pursues a course of action so wrong-headed for years on end, and then suddenly realizes "hey, I was wrong, and all those people who told me I was wrong were right"

The areas in which I think you were right are limited enough that I suspect you would get much less satisfaction from such an admission than you want.

So I'll say what I'm going to say and not worry about it.

I'm being a little tongue in cheek -- I don't think we're talking about nuclear war.

I do think that going to war with Iran -- deliberately provoking such a thing -- will lead to a couple generations worth of conflict.

We will wind up with a broken military, a horrifying debtload to the Chinese, enemies throughout the middle east, military conflicts involving Israel, and religious fanatacism in the highest levels of government in Iran, Iraq and surrounding countries (basically what we have now, only exacerbated threefold).

I think we will be in a place of conflict for more than a generation -- in other words , for the forseeable future in our lifetimes, and that of our children. We will dig a hole that we may never climb out of, in money and prestige and influence. We will be *the* target for worldwide jihad. And I think America comes out of the deal as a second-rate power.

And it's all unnecessary. Talking to Iran now, making diplomatic overtures, is what turns things around slowly over the next 20 years. It won't happen tomorrow or the next day, but you lay the groundwork. Already the loons are losing ground in Iran. Iran wants to be a player, they want to trade with the world. And with trade comes what we will laughingly call "civilization"

We have a President who is unwilling to start the ball rolling in the right longterm direction, and who insists on moving it further and further in the wrong one. The point will come, if it hasn't come already, when it will not be possible to start rolling the ball the other way.

What I'm saying is that point is likely to come and go before 2009.......

Jes, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, do you realize that when Sebastian and other former Bush/war supporters whenever they concede that they or Bush are wrong in some area, endlessly flagellating them for not prostrating themselves enough is not going to encourage them to concede anything to you in the future, because your reaction conveys to them that the only thing they can expect from you is further abuse?

On purely practical terms, your behavior towards Sebastian, Von, and others on these matters is completely counterproductive and likely to produce exactly the opposite of what you want. Think on that a bit.

Sebastian, little to add to what you said other than resigned agreement.^3.

I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing – and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies.

Um....how do either of these factor in to defeating an insurgency?

Add me to the list of those not demanding a personal Self-Criticism from Sebastian.
(I mean, I'm sure a post describing the evolution of his views Iraq and Bush would be interesting if he wants to write it--if HE wants to write it.)

I can't figure out whether this new Baghdad plan means we're going after the Mahdi armym or we're helping them take the city, or some muddled combination....

And if Bush starts a war with Iran without Congressional authorization, he and Cheney *should* f*cking be impeached.

I'd imagine invasion of Iran's embassy can't be much other than an act of war, can it?

By the time enough Republicans think that Bush and Cheney should be impeached, it will be too late. The die with Iran will be cast.

My biggest fear -- of many, many competing ones -- will be that Bush has nothing to lose and everything to gain by rolling the dice with destiny. And if he thinks whoever the next President is will not have the cojones to do "what has to be done" with the Evil that confronts us, he may feel it's his duty to history.

He and Cheney may be saying to each other that they've got two years left to save the world........

I'd even accept President Rice at this point....really......

re Catsy's point, ditto. Am I the only one who finds the title of the post strangely related?

With regard to the consequences of a war with Iran, I suspect the average American citizen is going to notice the effects, and quickly. While our military has the power to break Iran pretty thoroughly, the success of an air campaign against purported nuclear facilities is almost irrelevant.

For starters, we can expect economic sanctions, even if they are informal citizen efforts rather than formal government decrees. Expect the formal decrees if we use nukes. Oil prices will spike as everyone gets nervous about instability in the Persian Gulf. If we hit the Iranian oil fields the prices will spike and stay high as demand outpaces supply. (There's a school on conspiracy theory that holds this is the real reason behind Iraq II--in order to raise oil prices by keeping Iraq's oil in the ground.)

Second, what will Iran do to respond? There's been a lot of speculation about their Chinese and Russian munitions and our carrier groups. Whether they succeed in sinking any of our navy is again almost immaterial, as firing upon a US warship is pretty much a declaration of war. (Don't ask me how we can bomb whatever we want and nobody else gets to lift a finger in response--just thinking about American exceptionalism makes me ill.) And then the neocons get what they seem to have wanted all along--all-out war in the Middle East. Oil's at $180 a barrel, but who cares?

If Iran goes for the unconventional response, then things also get pear-shaped rather quickly. How much of the oil that we need to support our way of life can they deny us? What if they decide that if they can't export oil, neither should Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or the UAE? What if the Silkworms fly at deep-water oil terminals instead of carriers? How many sleeper groups trained for straight-up sabotage are already in place? How much do you think oil will cost? Iran was given formal notice of impending hostilities quite a few years ago, in that famous Axis-of-Evil speech. Take a look at what Hezbollah did to Israel last year. Do you think they've put as little thought into their plans for us?

I'm curious. Why would we not live until 2009? While a war with Iran would be unpleasant, unless Iran is a lot closer to WMDs than anyone believes, the odds are that a war with Iran would have little more effect on the average American than the war in Iraq. Even assuming Iran unleashed suicide bombers in the U.S., I'm unconvinced that would result in the level of deaths that would justify concern over surviving to see 2009.

There is the problem of trying to get oil through the Straits of Hormuz.

This is my related musing on the war.

I firmly believe that a huge reason why the insurgency got out of control was because we did very little to stop the sectarian violence when we let Sadr run wild (and try to foment revolution). I think trying to coopt him after the first time was actually bad, but theoretically defensible. After the second time, he should have just been shot. The common objection to that is 'martyrdom'.

My question is: how often has martyrdom been a real problem for the government or group killing the 'martyr'? Hundreds of millions of people have been killed in a large variety of circumstances. Thousands of them, if not tens of thousands of them had some sort of leadership capability. How many were successful martyrs if by 'success' we say that they furthered their cause such that it was much more likely to succeed than if killing them had been avoided?

It seems to me that many 'martyrs' are symbols for causes that are already well on their way up. Other symbols would have been used and would have been successful if they had not been killed or the leader would have been successful if he had lived. (Gandhi is probably a classic example of this). Jesus (and maybe relatedly Paul) is another example. But generally "martyrs" just aren't all that successful. Am I wrong?

Last sentence should be "But generally 'martyrs' just aren't that successful compared to live leaders.

Hmm, thought of another example. Would Nelson Mandela have been more successful for his cause if the South African government had killed him in 1962? I seriously doubt it.

Note: if anyone takes this comment as suggesting that the world would have been a better place if he had been killed, or some other such rot, I will scream.

OMG Seb are you suggesting that the world would have been better off if Nelson Mandela had been killed????????

(ducks)

-- I think a lot depends on the martyr. Ideally (for martyrdom to be useful), the culture should lend itself to this sort of thing, the martyr should be someone who actually wouldn't have been that effective had he lived (one problem with Mandela), and the martyrdom should seem in some way unjust and awful, so that it reveals the horribleness of the killers in a particularly vivid way.

NB (on the first point): Shi'a Islam still mourns the martyrdom of 'Ali.

Now, it appears there's some dispute as to events in Irbil.

That aside, Sebastian's regret of Nelson Mandela's longevity is execrable.

Killing Sadr would have kept a lid on the Sunnis? Don't see it at all. Leaving Sadr alive kept Sistani on the U.S. side for a good while.

I wouldn't totally discount Iran's possible military response either. A week of really bad weather that inhibited U.S. air power and they could have a couple armored divisions in Iraq totally isolating the U.S. forces.

...which would be reduced to slag in whort order after the weather cleared. I'm wondering, though, what you consider to be prohibitively bad weather?

No, Seb, at least this commentor won't wilfully misinterpret what you say.

I'm not sure it's fair to say that martrydom "works" only for movements on their way up anyway; we have very few data points to consider either way. Were the early Christian martyrs made much of when they met their mythic ends, or only once Christianity was the dominant -ology in Europe?

There are also a number of confounding factors. One would have to be the cultural difference in what martyrdom means; how passionate a culture is about idolating/mourning/avenging its chosen heroes. Martyrdom might not mean much in the West, or in any industrialized nation (where, among other things, emotional attachments to media figures is attenuated over so many of 'em) - it might mean a great deal in a region that nurtures centuries-long senses of grievance and grudge.

Also, if I remember correctly, one of the reasons not to kill al-Sadr was that, at that point, he seemed to be a moderating influence on the insurgents, or at least one of the less egregious militia leaders. IIRC, killing him wouldn't just have "made him into a martyr," it would have destabilized things even more, or faster, by unleashing his millions of followers - all armed, all enraged, and with no leader.

short...short order.

How much did Zarqawi's death accomplish?

To the extent that Sadr himself is necessary for the Mahdi Army to do what it does, it's only because of his martyred father.

Assassinating him earlier could have helped, could have made things worse sooner, could have made little difference. Hard to know. I would say that supporting a government with Bayan Jabr as Interior Ministry, and considering the "Salvador Option," and ignoring abuses of Sunnis for too long [obviously there were abuses of Shi'ites too--more, in the early days--but they weren't by our ostensible allies], are more clearly mistakes.

"How much did Zarqawi's death accomplish?"

After we had already let the militas become a firmly established feature? Some but not lots? But neither did it make him much of a martyr.

From slart's link" (who ya gonna believe, BBC or CNN of Official Releases)

"Citing an Iranian-owned TV channel, Baztab also said that five U.S. helicopters were involved and that forces belonging to Kurdish leader Masood Barzani surrounded U.S. forces and demanded the Iranians' release. Baztab reported that shots were fired." ...Maybe Kurds are lying?

Juan Cole ...provides a little context that pretty much leaves me speechless:

"One scenario you could imagine is that Iran was sending some aid and weaponry to the Peshmerga on condition it be shared with the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq." ...Cole

I hope we are all clear on what's going on now. Peshmurga, Badr, SCIRI...we have a whole passle of enemies and insurgents in Iraq.

Sebastian, it's hard to answer your question without some framing. Sandino spent much longer as a martyr and a bloody flag for the Sandinistas to wave than he did actually doing anything against the Somozas. But I don't know if you'd consider the Sandinistas significant in the overall evolution of Nicaragua. Likewise with Steven Biko and Benigno Aquino.

Andrew: I can think of some way attacking Iran might affect Americans. And it doesn't even involve oil. And given you're about to deploy, this might even be of interest to you.

We have 130,000 troops deployed in Iraq. Surrounded by a lot of very angry people. Some Shia, some Sunni. Now, for the most part, we've been attacked by the Sunni and ignored by the Shia (who are happily killing Sunni).

Do you think that, just maybe, bombing the everloving crap out of Iran might inflame some of those Shia who haven't taken arms against us?

How many men can al-Sadr put on the streets of Baghdad? How many people in Baghdad might rise up -- whether through Iranian prompting or just because it was the last straw?

You think 50,000 American soldiers can hold that back? (I do, actually. But it involves dropping 500lb bombs on any gathering of more than 50 people....something I don't think will contain the violence).

I don't think any American soldier is going to want to be in Baghdad when we bomb Iran. I also don't think the attack of Iran would go nearly as smoothly as the attack on Iraq. After all, Iran has a much better military, and a lot of economic options at it's disposal.

Catsy: Jes, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, do you realize that when Sebastian and other former Bush/war supporters whenever they concede that they or Bush are wrong in some area, endlessly flagellating them for not prostrating themselves enough is not going to encourage them to concede anything to you in the future, because your reaction conveys to them that the only thing they can expect from you is further abuse?

Is Sebastian conceding he was wrong to me? I don't think so. Has Sebastian conceded he was wrong at all? I don't think so.

If people who used to think that supporting the Democratic Party in 2004 was "wrongheaded" (went back to September 2004 to dig that up, from one of Sebastian's posts back then) have had a genuine change of mind, and now realise that they were profoundly wrongheaded to think Bush should have a second term, then nothing that anyone says to them about their past or present opinions is going to change their mind

If we have to sweet-talk them and forget their past criticism of us for being right when they were wrong, or they'll run back to their old wrongheadedness because we're not being nice to them, then plainly, they didn't actually change their minds: they just want to be popular again, and supporting Bush is no longer popular.

I'm not calling for Sebastian to flagellate himself: (a) I'm not into that (b) if I were, Sebastian's really not my type. But if we could put up with years of Sebastian calling us wrongheaded for opinions he now espouses, which name-calling he's not prepared to apologize for or even acknowledge that we were right and he was wrong, then Sebastian - and other former Bush supporters - can put up with ragging about their silliness back then.

Especially as, if 2004 had been a Democratic landslide the way 2006 was, we wouldn't be in half this problem in Iraq and Afghanistan...

Especially as, if 2004 had been a Democratic landslide the way 2006 was, we wouldn't be in half this problem in Iraq and Afghanistan...

I see I'm not the only one who has a firm grasp of counterfactual history. ;)

...or closing italics.

Details...

[in passing]

One excellent reason for writing about your change of heart is that it would add to the very small amount of literature we have from people who have, after long last, rejected a morally untenable political position. If we learn enough about why people do this...perhaps next time we won't get into this position. That seems a worthwhile thing.

If I'm trying to use a 3-foot stepladder to reach the top of my 3-story house, is putting a phonebook on top of it a new strategy?

Hell yes! And anyone who tells you otherwise is an unserious loser-defeatist.

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Whatnot


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